A last-minute cruise is a great opportunity to get a great deal on a cruise, to travel on unusual itineraries, and get other upgrades and special features from cruise lines looking to fill a ship’s manifest close to departure. With a little preparation and leg work, it’s possible to take a last-minute cruise and equally possible to get a great deal on one, if you know what to look for and where to look for it.
Here are some tips as to how you can get the best deal on a last-minute cruise.
1. Be willing to cruise outside of “peak” times of year.
Of course, since part of last-minute cruising is taking advantage of the fact that ships won’t always sell out, you’re going to have more luck if you plan to cruise during the off-season. Don’t expect to be able to get a good bargain in late December or the summer; instead, aim for just before and after the holiday season for the best results. (Most cruise lines see a downturn in sales at the beginning of the year, when most people are back from their holiday vacations, and just before the holiday season, when it’s too late for the popular summer cruises and people are waiting for the holidays to take vacations.)
2. Timing is everything
Most cruise lines’ cancellation policy has a deadline for when customers can cancel a reservation with no penalty. Right around that time, most cruise lines will want to “lock in” a sold-out ship, so if you search at this particular time, you may find discounts if the ship still has cabins available, or if late cancellations make them available.
For most cruise lines, this window is 60 to 90 days prior to departure. Check each particular cruise line you search to be sure.
3. When considering value, consider the whole package
While you may find certain cruises to be particularly cheap, make sure you consider all the costs involved: A cheaper cruise might involve more expensive flights, particularly if the arrival and departure cities are different. To and from destinations might be more expensive.
For example, if you’re looking at a Pacific Northwest cruise, the Vancouver to Anchorage voyage might be cheaper than a cruise that begins and ends in Seattle, but the difference in flight costs (not only that one is a round trip, but also that it is inside the continental United States) may push the total cost of the former vacation higher. Always check the details.
4. “Repositioning” cruises are your friend
A ship takes a “repositioning” cruise when it changes home ports; these cruises usually take place during the off-seasons, because they are such odd and unconventional routes. If you’re willing to take an odd and unconventional journey, though, these cruises can often be very cheap for those reasons.
Unfortunately, repositioning cruises can suffer from the same problems of airfare mentioned in the last item: Because these cruises embark from one city and make port at another, the necessary flight itinerary will be more expensive than a round trip to and from the same two airports.
5. Enlist the help of a professional.
Above all else, having someone on your side who knows the industry is the best way to guarantee the best possible price on a cruise. Visit our website at AffordableTours.com or call us at 1-800-627-3753 to speak to one of our cruise consultants.